Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Seventh Report


Bermuda


Population: 63,571

GDP: $4.9 billion, GDP per head: $76,400 (first in world)

Key industries: financial services and tourism

Associate member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)

Geography

445.  Bermuda, a group of about 138 islands and islets, lies 570 miles east of the coast of North Carolina. The eight main islands form a chain about 22 miles long, interconnected by bridges and causeways. The warming effect of the Gulf Stream makes Bermuda the most northerly group of coral islands in the world.

History

446.  Bermuda is the oldest Overseas Territory, acquired in 1612 when King James I and VI extended the charter of the Virginia Company to include them. The islands, which became known as Somers Islands, were bought about 1615 by some entrepreneurs from the City of London. The settlers became weary of the restrictions imposed on them by the Virginia Company and its successor the Bermuda Company. They took their case to London and in 1684 the company's charter was annulled, and government passed to the Crown. As elsewhere in the British Empire, slavery was abolished in Bermuda in August 1834.

Constitutional status

447.  Bermuda's bicameral Parliament, which first met in 1620, is the oldest legislature in the Commonwealth outside the British Isles. Bermuda has a high degree of control over its own affairs. The Premier has complete responsibility for choosing the Cabinet, which must include at least six other members of the legislature, and allocating portfolios. The Governor does not attend Cabinet meetings, though he retains responsibility for external affairs, defence, internal security and the police. Unlike most Overseas Territories, where the Governor has certain reserved powers, the UK can only legislate for Bermuda by Act of Parliament, or by Order in Council under an Act of Parliament.[686] Bermuda also has "standing entrustments" which allow it to negotiate treaties in certain areas.[687]

448.  The PLP (Progressive Labour Party) government came into power in 2003. On 27 October 2006 the PLP elected a new party leader - Dr Ewart Brown, who was sworn in as Premier on 30 October. The last general election was held on 18 December 2007. The PLP won 22 seats in the House of Assembly to the United Bermuda Party (UBP)'s 14.

Evidence received

449.  We received evidence from 29 individuals or organisations in Bermuda, including the opposition and the Voters' Rights Association.

450.  A delegation of the Committee visited Bermuda in March 2008.

Key recommendations

  • We recommend that the Government sets out in its response to this Report the steps it has taken to ensure that allegations of corruption at the Bermuda Housing Corporation, in the issuing of contracts, and of electoral fraud in Bermuda are properly investigated. We also recommend that the Government should encourage the Bermuda government to strengthen its transparency measures, including by establishing an independent Electoral Commission and ending the practice of Committees of the House of Assembly sitting in camera. (see para 214)
  • We recommend that the Government should take steps to ensure that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender status is made illegal in all Overseas Territories. (para 260)
  • We conclude that although extending voting rights to non-Belongers will be politically difficult for Overseas Territory governments, the Government should at least encourage local administrations to review this issue with regard to non-Belongers who have resided in an Overseas Territory for a reasonable period. We recommend that the Government should propose that non-Belongers' rights be an agenda item for the next OTCC. (para 275)
  • We recommend that the Government should encourage the Bermuda government to move away from conscription and towards the Bermuda Regiment becoming a more professional organisation, with voluntary and paid elements. We conclude that this could make serving in the Regiment more attractive, giving it the staffing resources required to extend into maritime duties. (para 285)
  • We recommend that the FCO should encourage Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, and Gibraltar to continue to make progress in improving financial regulation, in particular in arrangements for investigating money laundering. (para 311)



686   Ev 144 Back

687   Ev 144 Back


 
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